It is extraordinary that it has taken the use of a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ in the provincial City of Salisbury to shake us out of our complacency about Russia.
This rogue state has an economy that is a fraction the size of the UK’s but a budget for offensive military capability that is a multiple of ours. It is high time that we woke up, and addressed our neglected defences.
We have ignored the signs for so long:
Cyber-attacks on the Baltic states and throughout Europe; The annexation of South Ossetia and the aggression in Georgia; The annexation of the Crimea and war on Ukraine; Their complicity and lies over the destruction of the the MH17 flight from Amsterdam killing 298 passengers; The routine harassment of foreign diplomats; The persecution, imprisonment and assassination of dissidents and critics internally; The unbridled gangsterism and cleptocracy that has enabled Putin and his associates to amass fortunes in the £billions despite their modest official salaries; The campaign of assassination on foreign soil including ours; The horrendous human suffering in Syria which is a direct consequence of their active and lethal support for the Assad regime; Interfering in the elections of democratic states and the promotion of ‘fake news’.
I could go on.
This wilful determination to avoid confronting the Russian menace has a long pedigree in our political establishment.
During the Soviet ‘red terror’ with the shooting, starving, and deporting of millions there were many prominent UK politicians, trade unionists and intellectuals who simply denied that it was happening and continued to peddle the myth that the Russian Revolution was the most progressive thing to have happened in the history of civilisation, and that a utopia was under construction.
When the Kulaks were being liquidated or transported to Siberia, the definition of what actually constituted a ‘kulak’ was extended to include all the clergy and the persecution of all religion was intensified with the intention of eliminating it altogether. The instinctive reaction of Ramsay MacDonald’s government was one of denial, with the active complicity of our ambassador to Moscow Sir Esmond Ovey, together with the Foreign Secretary Arthur Henderson and his deputy Hugh Dalton.
Notwithstanding this conspiracy of silence and denial, the truth of what was being done continued to emerge, causing the Archbishop of Canterbury to call for a national day of prayer throughout the Empire in support of Russian Christians of all denominations along with the adherents of other faiths.
The British Government’s quite extraordinary response was to order all military church parades not to observe the Archbishop’s prayers on Sunday 16th March 1930 and to prevent non-conformist servicemen from leaving barracks to attend their own church services.
The motives for complicity by silence were both ideological and financial. There was enormous support for the Soviet Union amongst British socialists and a corresponding disdain for religion. Then there was a determination to profit by promoting growing trade with the USSR–including the lucrative timber trade, reliant as it was on Soviet slave labour.
It is more difficult to discern what ideology might contribute to our wilful blindness in recent years (although there does still seem to be an unaccountable reluctance to criticise Russia on the part of the political extreme left).
So is it all just down to the money?